23 November 2011

The Squirrel and the Grasshopper

The text below was forwarded to me a few years ago and I rediscovered it today. I've edited it to take out Australian specific references. The Squirrel and the Grasshopper story really resonated with me when I first heard it as a kid. I thought the squirrel was prudent. I’m sure other kids felt sad for the Grasshopper. I propose everyone can be divided into two groups – those who side with the squirrel and those who side with the grasshopper.


The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building and improving his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed. The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.


The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

A social worker finds the shivering grasshopper, calls a press conference and demands to know why the squirrel should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like the grasshopper, are cold and starving.

The media shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the squirrel in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food and informs people that they should be ashamed that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so while others have plenty.

Do gooders demonstrate in front of the squirrel's house. A Lefty Politician rants in an interview that the squirrel got rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the squirrel to make him pay his 'fair share'.

In response to pressure from the media, the Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer, and creates The Grasshopper Housing Department. The squirrel's taxes are reassessed. He is taken to court and fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as builders, for the work he was doing on his home, and an additional fine for contempt when he told the court the grasshopper did not want to work.

The grasshopper is provided with a Grasshopper Housing Department house, financial aid to furnish it and an account with a local taxi firm to ensure he can be socially mobile. The squirrel's food is seized and re-distributed to the more needy members of society - in this case the grasshopper.

Without enough money to buy more food, to pay the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the squirrel has to downsize his home.

A 60 Minutes special shows the grasshopper finishing up the last of the squirrel's food, though spring is still months away, while the Grasshopper Housing Department house he is in, crumbles around him because he hasn't bothered to maintain it. He is shown to be taking drugs.

Inadequate government funding is blamed for the grasshopper's drug 'Illness'.

The grasshopper gets arrested for stabbing an old dog during a burglary to get money for his drugs habit. He is imprisoned but released immediately because he has been in custody for a few weeks. He is placed in the care of the probation service to monitor and supervise him.

Within a few weeks he has killed a guinea pig in a botched robbery.

A commission of enquiry, that will eventually cost $10 million and state the obvious, is set up.

Additional money is put into funding a drug rehabilitation scheme for grasshoppers.

The grasshopper dies of a drug overdose.

The usual sections of the press blame it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity and his traumatic experience of prison.

The squirrel’s taxes are increased to pay for law and order, and they are told that they will have to work beyond 65 because of a shortfall in government funds.

01 November 2011

Why Gold Mining Shares Are Lagging The Gold Price

I've got a post on the corporate blog referencing two articles on the divergence of mining shares to the gold price - and the conclusion is it isn't all the ETF's fault.

Negative Lease Rates

Very good two page analysis of negative lease rates by Pollitt & Co’s John Paul Koning, including central bank activity in this market. Quote:

What sort of “non-banks” might be supplying leased gold to the market-making banks at these extremely negative rates? As we already pointed out, central banks seem willing to lend only at positive rates, which leaves only one other source: the investing public. ...

The public effectively lends gold to banks when they deposit their physical gold in unallocated form at a bank. ... The negative interest rate received by the borrowing bank is probably in the form of client fees or bid-ask spreads. ...

By serving as the cheapest source of lent gold, the investing public has effectively priced central banks out of the gold lending market.

The Perth Mint does a bit of leasing and certainly no one is paying us to borrow metal. However, unallocated accounts at bullion banks do attract an account keeping fee, as Koning notes, and this is effectively paying the bank to use your metal.

Another factor as to why investors may be prepared to pay people to borrow their metal is that it can be cheaper than the costs of storing it (ie Allocated). I do also think the derived negative rates are a theoretical interbank no counterparty risk rate. Once you add in a premium for the counterparty risk the actual rate is positive.

Finally, there is a mathematical relationship/arbitrage between the futures markets and GOFO (and thus lease rates) and this could also have an impact (not something I've been following too closely).